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10/31/2013 6:00:00 AM
Kingman's hospital celebrates 30-year milestone
Kingman Regional Medical Center was once at a crossroads
Top: Kingman Regional Medical Center as it looks today, 30 years after Mohave County sold it to Mohave County Hospital District No. 1. Bottom: The hospital in the 1970s. (Courtesy)
Top: Kingman Regional Medical Center as it looks today, 30 years after Mohave County sold it to Mohave County Hospital District No. 1. Bottom: The hospital in the 1970s. (Courtesy)

Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa
Miner Staff Reporter

KINGMAN - Kingman Regional Medical Center celebrates an important milestone on Friday - 30 years of serving the Kingman area.

The hospital invites the community to join in the celebration with a block party from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday on Beale Street. The hospital will offer deserts from its catering services, showcase music and art from its numerous employees and offer games and info on its various departments.

KRMC will also unveil two gifts, one for the community and one for its employees.

But KRMC almost didn't happen, according to Bill Porter, an attorney who has been involved with the hospital since it became KRMC. In the early 1980s, Mohave County almost sold the hospital to a large hospital corporation based in Phoenix.

KRMC started as the 26-bed Mohave General Hospital, which was built by Mohave County in 1922 for $65,000 near the corner of Beale Street and Grandview Avenue in downtown Kingman.

In the1960s, the county outgrew the Beale Street hospital and was having problems covering the cost of care for indigent patients. It took the county two tries in the 1960s to get voters to approve a $1.2 million bond to build a new $3 million, 65,000 square foot county hospital at KRMC's present location. The remaining portion of the project was covered by a federal grant. Construction began immediately and a new 82-bed hospital opened for business in 1970.

But the county continued to have problems covering the costs of indigent patients - nearly $450,000 a year by 1966, according to one Miner article in 1980. By the early 1980s, the county was experiencing a case of déjà vu - the new hospital owed the county $1.22 million, its equipment was 10 years out of date and it needed more hospital beds.

"It was just becoming too much of a problem to run it," Porter said.

Bill Ekstrom, a Mohave County civil attorney and a member of the KRMC board of directors, remembers something similar. He was serving as Mohave County's Attorney at the time the Board was considering selling the hospital.

"I remember at budget time, the hospital would come in and ask for a new piece of equipment and then the road department would come in and ask for a new blade," he said. "The road department would prevail and get the blade because it was a tangible item that people could see."

In July 1980, the Board of Supervisors decided to get out of the health care business and sell the hospital.

"They recognized that without a separate source of funding, the hospital would always be in the backseat," Ekstrom said.

The decision split the three-member Board of Supervisors and the community. Supervisor Jerry Holt, representing the Lake Havasu City area, argued the hospital should be sold to the highest bidder.

Bullhead City Supervisor Jim Schultz said the county should hold on to the hospital. Kingman Supervisor Bill Roper argued the county should sell it to a local organization to keep the cost of health care affordable.

Some county residents wanted to sell the hospital and others wanted the county to hold on to it.

The Board of Supervisors had several offers, Porter said, including one from Samaritan Health Services in Phoenix. A group of 25 local businessmen and community leaders were afraid that the hospital would lose its ties to the community if sold to Samaritan.

"Samaritan wanted it very badly, but we knew if they got it it would become a feeder hospital. All of the patients would eventually be shipped down to their hospitals in Phoenix," Porter said. "We wanted to keep a good, strong, local hospital here. That's why they formed Kingman Hospital Inc. and put together the hospital district."

KHI didn't have the funds to buy Mohave General, so they put together a special "hospital district," similar to a fire district, which voters approved in December 1982.

Arizona law doesn't allow the district to operate the hospital. The plan was to have the district lease the building to KHI and have it run the hospital, Porter said.

The Board was interested, but Arizona Revised Statutes stated that all county property had to be sold to the highest bidder and could not be sold for less than its appraised price. The hospital was appraised for $8 million. According to 1980 copies of the Miner, Roper and Schultz favored selling the hospital to KHI. Holt still wanted to sell it to the highest bidder.

In February 1983, the Arizona Legislature passed a special law allowing Mohave County to sell the hospital for less than its appraised value. The Board granted KHI the right of first refusal on purchasing the hospital. But KHI nearly lost its chance to purchase the hospital, Porter said.

The attorney working on the project missed some of the paperwork KHI had to file with the Arizona Department of Health Services, he said.

"They were right up against the deadline when Les Byram came into my office and asked for my help," Porter said.

Byram, a former Kingman mayor and educator, was strongly involved in the community and had been involved with KHI from the start, Porter said.

Porter tried to beg off, because a client of his, Dr. Arthur Arnold, had given KHI $100,000 to cover the down payment on the hospital.

"I told him it would be a conflict of interest," Porter said. "He left and a few minutes later Dr. Arnold came into my office."

Arnold waived his right to sue KHI if the group failed to purchase the hospital, opening the door for Porter to serve as the group's attorney.

"I've served as their general counsel ever since," Porter said. "But it was a very close call to get things done in Phoenix. I wasn't sure I was going to make it down there in time."

But the paperwork did get filed and the Board sold the hospital to the district in Nov. 1983 for $1.8 million. The district leased the hospital to KHI, which was responsible for paying the $100,000 down payment and the remaining $1.7 million of the purchase price and the cost of operating the hospital.

In order to pay off the balance of the purchase price and buy new equipment for the hospital, the Board of Supervisors approved more than $3.7 million in industrial development bonds from the state for KHI. The hospital was renamed Kingman Regional Medical Center.

"I know it sounds like I'm cheerleading, but (selling the hospital to KHI) was one of the best things done around here," Porter said. "It's really grown into one of the best medical facilities in the state. It has a broad range of services that's almost unheard of for a small rural hospital. The Board of Supervisors did everyone a huge favor by doing what they did."

Ekstrom agreed.

"It was very controversial at the time, but it was one of those experiments that turned out really well," he said. "The county was taking a big chance, but there was a lot of good people in leadership positions involved."

Since 1983, KRMC has grown from an 83-bed county-owned hospital with 22 physicians and 16 full-time and six part-time registered nurses to a 247-bed nonprofit, community-owned hospital with more than 1,500 employees, 250 volunteers and 190 physicians.

The hospital has added an emergency room, more patient rooms, an imaging center, a cancer center, a wellness center, a cardiac catherization lab, a cardiac care center, a rehabilitation center and a community office in Golden Valley.

Porter attributed the quality of care and services at KRMC to KHI and the hospital district boards of directors.

"They were very careful in who they hired in administration and how they handled the funds," he said. "For a small community to develop something like KRMC is really remarkable."

Another boon to the community was KRMC's affiliation with the Mayo Clinic in October 2011, Porter said.

The hospital is one of two in the nation that has such an affiliation, which links Mayo Clinic doctors with KRMC patients through telemedicine technology.

For more than 25 years, KRMC was the sole provider of health care for the Kingman area. Then, in 2009, a group of local doctors teamed up with MedCath to build a new $70 million, 70-bed hospital - Hualapai Mountain Medical Center.

"There were some sweaty months there after Hualapai Mountain Medical Center was built," Porter said. "There was no panic, but there was definitely some concern. But all we could do is continue to do what we've always done as a hospital.

"The real problem came when HMMC couldn't continue to operate," he said. "The board was nervous that (HMMC) would fall into the wrong hands - a fly-by-night operation - and what it would do to the community."

KRMC and KHI were also concerned about what might happen if the hospital was shut down for good and no one bought it, Porter said. MedCath eventually sold the hospital to KRMC for $31 million in 2011.

KRMC reopened the hospital as Hualapai Medical Campus and moved its acute rehabilitation unit to the building in June. It has plans to reopen the hospital's emergency room at a later date.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, November 21, 2013
Article comment by: Goodwin Prescott

Bill Porter's great. He's an old friend of Goodwin Prescott's. Google us!

Posted: Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Article comment by: First major reason

People pay Lotto for many reasons. Now that Im older most of my reasons for playing focus on helping others.

KRMC has saved me more then once in the 8 yrs I've lived in Kingman. They are at the top of my "lotto fantasy giving". I sure hope I get the chance to give tens of millions to KRMC and the Gardens for their dedication to my well being during care. Nothing would feel better then to provide the funds to ensure our hometown medical care continues top notch for all.

Posted: Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Article comment by: DENISE BENSUSAN

Thank you KRMC for being here we are lucky to have you in such a small community. You saved me several times this last year.....THANK YOU!

Denise Bensusan

Posted: Friday, November 1, 2013
Article comment by: joker wilde

I have nothing but praise for KRMC. I've been hospitalized there a dozen times since 1999 and each time the care was wonderful. Shoot, even the food is good! Congratulations, KRMC!

Posted: Friday, November 1, 2013
Article comment by: adam dorris

and they still could not find what was wrong with my wife ... we drove to Phx. to get her some help... VERY SAD ...

Posted: Thursday, October 31, 2013
Article comment by: Julie Bare

We are fortunate to have the vision and enthusiasm of Bill Porter and others who had the vision and expertise to guide KHI and KRMC. Their tireless efforts have benefitted all residents of Mohave County, and countless visitors and travelers who have used the facilities throught the years.

Posted: Thursday, October 31, 2013
Article comment by: june schultz

thank you for the factual article .

of all the actions of the board jim wasproudest
of this one. t863l

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